Thanks to David from the Montreal Tourism Office (check out their Instagram account to see how gorgeous Montreal is) who suggested and planned lots of the activities I write about here. This is my personal kid-friendly (parent-friendly) travel guide to Montreal.
We’ve always wanted to visit Canada (in the summer, of course ;-), and while looking for destinations for our summer 2018, we found out that flights Malaga-Montreal are not only quite economical and relatively quick (7 hours), but also direct!
The idea of not having to make a connection with two toddlers in tow sold East Canada to us in a heart beat. And Montreal turned out to be not only a gorgeous city I’ll miss deeply, but also a great starting point to travel around East Canada.
We decided to spend the whole month of July in Montreal because we needed a long-term base to do normal personal and working life (we’ve found a great babysitter), but especially because Montreal seemed the most family-friendly city. We were right.
If you’re visiting Montreal with toddlers, in this post you’ll find all our favourite places that we discovered in our month there — places that Oliver and Emily loved and that ensured my survival!
If you click on every place, it’ll take you to the Google location, and at the end of the post you can find all the links to the websites.
Here you can find my collection of toddler-friendly places in Montreal on Apple Maps.
We couldn’t have picked a better neighbourhood: if you come to Montreal with young children, Le Plateau Mont-Royal is a great base, and if you look for an AirBnb we’ve been very happy in Franck’s apartment (many houses here have the typical spiral staircases, but this is at street level which makes it very stroller-friendly). There are plenty of playgrounds and the beautiful La Fontaine park is just a few hundred meters away.
A few blocks away, you will also find the Laurier neighbourhood, great for families, with small children shops (like Boutique Ciconia), a well-stocked supermarket, family-friendly cafes (like Les Entretiens, see below) and the park Laurier with a playground and a public swimming pool.
Wherever you decide to be, please note that there are lots of stairs everywhere (metros, restaurants etc): we got around it by leaving the stroller outside where we could or simply using the baby carrier for short distances.
If you’ve ever tried to sightseeing with toddlers, you’ll know that more than visiting places, you go from one playground to the other: Montreal is the perfect city to do that! There are gorgeous playgrounds everywhere, full of activities for toddlers and children, and all different one from the other. This website has been a life saviour when looking for playgrounds.
These are our favourite in the neighbourhood:
• Albert-Saint-Martin: with lots of beach toys, cars, and tricycles kids can use.
• La Fontaine: this park is great to spend a whole morning. We usually get here early, around 9am, look for squirrels for about 20 minutes, then stay at the playground for about 1.5 hours and then get in the pad pool where the kids can easily spend another 2 hours. And then it’s already lunchtime! There’s a little café nearby, House Cyclists, that doesn’t have toys, but makes nice and fresh sandwiches for a quick lunch.
• Sir-Wilfrid-Laurier: the playground is quite big, with lots of benches in the shade, and there’s also a full size swimming pool + children pool, where you can go for free on week days.
This is not just a playground, or a park, or an activity, or an attraction: it’s all of them combined! Montreal has a mountain in the middle of the city (yep!), with hiking paths, a gorgeous lake, grassy hills and a playground! I’m serious, DO NOT live Montreal without spending some time up here, maybe with some new friends and a picnic (thanks, Eva & family, for the gorgeous afternoon).
Busses 11 and 711 leave from the Mont Royal metro station and will take you straight there. On summer Sundays make a stop at the monument Sir George-Étienne Cartier to see Les Tam-Tams, a gathering of drummers, dancers and vendors.
Toddler-friendly places we loved:
This was our number one favourite, and we spent here endless hours of great fun for the kids and productive work for me (this is where I’m writing this post from ;-). Their menu is homemade and healthy, and they have a little eco-friendly shop, too.
We spent here an entire morning from 10 to 2pm, and the kids had so much fun, which allowed me to work for a few hours straight! We had homemade omelette with ham and cheese for lunch, and they also have a selection of healthy snacks. You have to reserve a day/time on their website, and bring your own socks.
A few blocks away, there’s a nice children shop, Calins et Popotin, where you can find anything from cloth diapers, to children sunglasses, to strollers and carriers.
Oliver and Emily missed Colbie so we decided to take them here. They had a blast petting all the dogs and watching them play, and Oliver asked to go back at least once a day for the whole month! Vegetarian Menu.
The kid area in this library is great and not too big (which I sometimes find difficult with two toddlers, and they have a great selection for both Oliver’s and Emily’s age. There’s also an outdoor playground very close. (Pretty much every library in Montreal has a nice kid area, so look for one in your area).
We loved our breakfast here! There’s a family table near shelves with toys, books and puzzles, which was great to entertain the kids and to let us enjoying a relaxing (and amazingly yummy!) breakfast—and a soup-size cappuccino! Afterwards, take a walk in the Laurier neighbourhood, one of my favourite in the city.
We had a relaxing breakfast here, too. The owner is very friendly, the pastries delicious, and there’s a family table with some toys in a jar and a selection of children books—which was enough to entertain both Oliver and Emily. The place is small, so it’s not always easy to find a free table, but it has an outdoor area which is also nice in the summer.
Toddler-friendly activities we loved:
The area of the Old Port is perfect for families, and full of toddler-friendly activities and places, we’ve been there once or twice every week for the whole month.
Despite being a bit afraid, Oliver loved climbing the 189 steps to the top of the Clock Tower, and watch the harbour from high up. A few hundreds of meters away, there are a nice playground, and La Grande Roue (Ferris wheel) which is always a nice experience: catch the early bird Monday-Thursday 10am-2pm for a special price.
The Science Centre is great to spend a whole morning or afternoon. I thought the Click area was going to be the only one suitable for Oliver and Emily, but the Science26 exhibition upstairs was also great for the whole family. The centre closes at 5pm and we arrived at 2.30pm, but we could have easily spent another hour there: definitely go with time, you’ll be surprised!
Oliver and Emily (and mommy and daddy ;-) loved the pedal boat. I thought Emily might be too young, but she sat by herself on the back for the whole time and enjoyed the ride. You can also choose a combo of pedal boat and quadricycle.
This is one of those places where I’d buy the yearly pass. For Emily it’s definitely early, but Oliver did the children circuit a million times, he climbed, went down the slides and even did the biplane twice! As we went all together, Alex and I took turns at staying with the kids while the other had some mid-air fun. Emily had a lot of fun in the inflatables area and on the carousel.
This combo is perfect for a whole morning+lunch. There’s usually a children show at 9:30am that I highly recommend: it’s a short movie followed by an interactive show about space and planets that we loved. After you can visit the planetarium (if you don’t want to see a show, the entrance to the planetarium is free), but there are few activities for Oliver’s age (and nothing for Emily).
As you’re already in the area, you can have a picnic at the botanical gardens, walk around the park looking for flowers and plants, play in the playground, and visit the Insectarium which was the biggest hit for Oliver. The cafeteria at the entrance sells nice wraps and sandwiches. BUT do NOT expect plant sculptures as you see in the Google images because they were an exhibit from a few years ago (we were very disappointed).
One of my favourite activities: I LOVE guided tours that tell me interesting anecdotes about cities and I could do one in Montreal only thanks to this bus with big open windows, no seat belts (restrictions don’t work well with Emily at the moment) and that becomes a boat! We hadn’t told Oliver and you should have seen his face when the bus went into the water! A must-do!
Amusement parks are not really our thing, even less so with toddlers, but I have to admit that La Ronde has SO MANY rides for small kids—for Oliver to even do alone and for Emily to go accompanied—that it was a very fun (and not even so tiring) day for everybody! It goes without saying, bring your own food if you want to eat something even remotely healthy ;-)